Hackers who may have been working on behalf of a nation recently caused an operational outage at a critical-infrastructure site, researchers said Thursday. The attackers did so by using a novel piece of malware to target the system that prevents health- and life-threatening accidents.
The malware was most likely designed to cause physical damage inside the unnamed site, researchers from the Mandiant division of security firm FireEye said in a report. It worked by targeting a safety instrumented system, which the targeted facility and many other critical infrastructure sites use to prevent unsafe conditions from arising. The malware has been alternately named Triton and Trisis, because it targeted the Triconex product line made by Schneider Electric.
“Mandiant recently responded to an incident at a critical infrastructure organization where an attacker deployed malware designed to manipulate industrial safety systems,” Mandiant researchers wrote. “The targeted systems provided emergency shutdown capability for industrial processes. We assess with moderate confidence that the attacker was developing the capability to cause physical damage and inadvertently shutdown operations.”